Moral sense. A study of social conventions in the sphere of action of reciprocity. The case of the Mag6 experiment on universal and unconditional Existence Income
Simone Michelangelo Muzzioli (2022)
PhD thesis. Verona: University of Verona
Coordinatore: Prof.re Domenico Secondulfo
Tutor: Prof.re Giorgio Gosetti
Abstract. The aim of this research is to investigate the moral sense in its subjective and collective forms, through the analysis of the empiric manifestations their interaction produces: the social conventions. Particularly, our goal has been focused on the comprehension of the social coordination, that is to say the study of the ways social actors find an agreement on their conducts, both explicitly and implicitly. Therefore, we took advantage from the theoretical equipment made available by the School of the Economy of the Conventions (and especially from the main works of its founders, Luc Boltanski and Laurent Thévenot). In fact, we have recognized the relevance for sociological research to put more strength on the relevance of the role of subjective moral sense in the explanation of social action in advanced capitalist societies. That is why it has been assumed as the main object of our research. But this assumption has not been clear right from the beginning of this study. Tracing an ironic parallel with our object, it has rather been the outcome of a process. Thus, it took shape a three steps sociological research. In the first phase, we could understood the symbolic level of our research and, consequently, draft its design, thanks to an exploratory grounded theory analysis. In the second one, we found a profitable case study by which conduct our core analysis on moral sense. In the third, we come to an end of our work, providing for a beneficial interpretation of the main findings. We have applied this theoretical approach and this research pathway to the pragmatic issues springing from the contemporary socioeconomic crisis. To this end, we have recognized our work field in those social conventions featuring the universe of meanings stemming from the overlapping of two different kinds of social phenomena: the paradigmatic shifts of the capitalist system and the contemporary shrinking of Welfare State. We have read the intertwining among the technological transformations, the globalizing exchanges, the scarcity and the precarization of labor and the reduction of social protection devices as driving elements of renewed social question. In the space shaped by this social question find place the conflict between the common concept of fordist work and the availability of a decent income for individual life building. In general terms, we have become aware of how this space represents for the collective imaginary a symbolic arena, that we called the common world of wealth redistribution, where people define their reciprocity relationships, both materially and culturally. By the study of the justifications populating this common world (social conventions and their related principles of justice), it has been possible to highlight how there exists basically two different forms of the collective moral sense ruling the reciprocity sphere: the distinctive, and the similarity one. Moreover, both forms are ascribable to an anthropological approach that every social actors shows when he is called to judge the generalized other. Both forms are made by two different sets of social conventions, which each one calls for a diverse anthropological approach. On one side, the distinctive form is featured by selective and conditional conventions, on the other, the similarity one is made up by universal and unconditional conventions. Reckoning also with the role played by the universal equivalent (money) in the objectification of our actors redistributive bonds, we could recognize how the existing need for reciprocity (belonging to both forms) can be collectively satisfied also by a redistributive way apparently exchange free (Universal and Unconditional Basic Income). In fact, we took advantage of an empirical case of study (the Mag6 affaire), where an experimentation of unconditional cash transfer has been carried on by an heterogeneous group of people on two different, but strictly linked, levels of reality: the reflexive and the practical. Methodologically, we used a mixed method for data collection and their analysis. This method is known in literature as simultaneous nested research design. Thanks to this, we succeeded in exploring two different aspects of the moral sense. The qualitative one is related to the composition of its nature and of its dynamic model of transformation. Instead, the quantitative one has helped us to explore the existence of possible associations between social conventions and actors’ socioeconomic characteristics. From both this moment we got several kinds of outcomes useful, not only to describe moral sense and its dynamic, but also to stress the contradictions related to social action that arise from the clash between people’ believes (collective moral sense) and what they believe in (subjective moral sense). Finally, these outcomes have been used to satisfy our initial aim of finding elements to expand the social knowledge at our disposal to cope with contemporary social question. Thus, we conclude the third and last phase of our work through the exposition of three different types of operative conjectures, by which our findings can be employed. We made some reflections and suggestion, severally, at the heuristic level, at the theoretical and at the practical one. Specifically, we observed how a sociological reading of our outcomes opens up to some new research pathways, to different deep theoretical considerations on social phenomena (like identity, integration and reciprocity) and, last but not least, to some political and operational involvements.